Like many of you, the events of February 14, 2018, have been at the forefront of our minds for the past week. A short drive from our office would land you in the midst of the mourning and strength of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School community. In no uncertain terms, this hits close to home.
On Wednesday, we watched as CNN hosted a town hall event, where students, community members, and politicians came together to discuss the tragedy. Within the first minute of one opening statement, we were disappointed to hear words like “nuts,” “mentally insane,” and “crazy” used. These terms were repeated throughout the rest of the segment.
Then there was a shout from the crowd: “STOP SAYING ‘CRAZY’!”
Stop saying ‘crazy.’
We don’t know what those words meant to the person who called out, but we know what those words mean to us, which is why we want to echo that refrain here.
When we say, “Stop saying ‘crazy,’” we mean:
Stop feeding the myth that suggests people are either whole or shattered, one of “us” or one of “them.”
Stop equating emotional or psychological pain with evil.
Stop portraying mental illness as some kind of scapegoat. That does nothing but prevent an estimated 56% of adults and 80% of children with mental health issues from seeking the help they deserve.
Leaning on “crazy” in the wake of tragedies like this one dismisses what we have learned to be true. According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, fewer than 5% of violent acts can be attributed to people with a serious mental illness. Their research also highlights that people with severe mental illness are 10 times more likely to be victims of violence than the general population.
We have the privilege of hearing from people who say they are alive today because of friends, family members, and mentors who were invested in their stories and saw no value in the word “crazy.”
The words we use to describe tragedy and resilience should ascribe dignity and encourage a collective sense of growth rather than alienate. The reality is, the effects of the shooting will be felt for years to come, perhaps manifesting as Post Traumatic Stress, Generalized Anxiety, or a variety of other conditions that could easily fall under the connotation of “crazy.”
By relying on a stigmatized word, we risk missing opportunities to connect the most vulnerable among us to sources of safety, of hope, and of help.
For many, maybe even for you, this past week and the conversations that have followed have awakened a sense of fear and disconnect, a feeling that you too may be viewed differently now.
We want to reassure you:
You are not crazy.
You are not alone.
You deserve to be called by your name, not by your diagnosis or your pain.
Right now, we’re working to visit every high school in Brevard County, where we’re based. Our goal is to bring our message of hope and help to the 22,885 high school students who are growing up in the place we call home.
We don’t know what the coming days, weeks, and months will bring. What we do know is that we leave those high schools feeling hopeful. Students like these, like the ones at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, and like those all over the country are speaking out and asking for what they need. Through their words and actions, they’re making the world a better, safer place.
So, in the coming days, weeks, and months, we’ll follow their lead. We’ll encourage their voices. And we’ll continue to carry out our mission of presenting hope and finding help for those struggling with mental illness.
If you are struggling in the wake of these events, we encourage you to reach out for help. To start, you can visit our list of resources here. You can also text TWLOHA to 741741 to get connected with a crisis counselor for free 24/7. This article also includes helpful tips on how to manage distress in the aftermath of a shooting.